by Will Overton
This wide receiver class is so deep and there are so many guys with big upside if things align just right for them. Ranking them is difficult because it feels like I’m too low on a lot of them, but that just speaks to the depth of talent pool. I think it’s feasible that we see up to 15 WR taken before the end of round 3. The rankings will shift, and possibly quite dramatically, after the draft, but this is how I have things shaking out at the moment:
- Jerry Jeudy – Alabama – Trying to choose between the top two is truly an exercise in splitting hairs. Ultimately, at least for me, the top spot on the list will be determined by the landing spot in the draft. Jeudy is one of the purest route runners I have seen come out of college as long as I have been watching the game. Pair that with his incredible burst off the line, ability to make defenders miss after the catch and the breakaway speed he possesses and he’s going to be really, really good immediately. The knock on him is that he dropped too many passes, but this seems more concentration than anything, which can be fixed, and I think it is overblown by scouts trying to find anything to have against the guy.
- CeeDee Lamb – Oklahoma – It’s clear that I love the game of Jeudy, but if Lamb ends up in the better spot after the draft I can absolutely see myself having him at number one. That’s because Lamb is also an incredible talent who will produce immediately and will very soon be a top tier receiver in fantasy. He doesn’t have the same breakaway speed as Jeudy and might be just a notch under him in route running, but his hands are incredible, he is very polished overall and he’s much stronger than his measurements may make it appear. He’s also more capable than Jeudy to be physical with a cornerback and take on defenders while running after the catch.
- Henry Ruggs III – Alabama – I’ll admit I was late to the party on Ruggs, but I have arrived. I have started seeing a couple people put him over one of the top two on this list, and I won’t get there, but I do think he’s clearly the third best prospect for fantasy purposes. Ruggs is a shade under six foot, but is anyone really concerned with this? The speed is elite but he isn’t just a track star, he runs great routes, has strong hands and is incredibly hard to square up and tackle. He won’t lead the league in receptions anytime soon, but as the saying goes every time he touches it he’s a threat to score. That isn’t truer for anyone else on this list.
- Tee Higgins – Clemson – At this point it’s really more about preference as there is a large cluster of guys who can be ranked a variety of ways and will shift after the draft. My preference after the big three is Higgins. We’ve seen consistent production the last two seasons, as he has shown to be a reliable red zone threat with decent speed for his size running a 4.59 at the combine. Higgins is very smart with strong awareness of where he is and where the defenders on the field are. While he isn’t a home run threat, his size and leaping ability will make him a threat for double digit TD before long.
- Justin Jefferson – LSU – Between his other worldly statistical senior season and better than expected combine, Jefferson is one of the hottest players coming into the draft after being totally off the radar before 2019. He has a good combination of size and speed, running a 4.43, with improving route running that you hope will continue to get better. He needs to learn to use his size to get separation from defensive backs as that is going to be a problem in the NFL if he doesn’t. If he does make that improvement his ceiling could be really high.
- Denzel Mims – Baylor – If you think this Mims ranking is simply a combine ranking you’re missing out. He had a great senior season with 66 catches, 1,020 yards and 12 TD, and that wasn’t a flash in the pan as he was solid the two years before too. There are areas that need work, he could be better at running routes, and his IQ needs to improve, but those things can be developed. Mims is 6’3” and 207 lbs. with an insane catch radius, ran a 4.38 at the combine and can leap out of the building. He’s big, strong and fast, and his ceiling is quite high.
- Laviska Shenault Jr. – Colorado – Here is the hardest guy on the list to rank. Shenault came into the college football season as many scouts top receiver prospect. He’s come out of the season with a lot of question marks, despite the potential. Shenault was disappointing, but the quarterback play did him absolutely no favors. There are a lot of questions about his ability to stay healthy, as well as about effort that teams are going to have to analyze. What he brings is strong, physical play with acceleration and burst that shows him playing much faster than his 40 time shows.
- Donovan Peoples Jones – Michigan – The less than stellar stats put up by Peoples-Jones in his college career are a poor inditement on his actual talent. Michigan never had good, consistent quarterback play, and the offensive schemes lacked imagination and creativity. Peoples-Jones showed off his athleticism at the combine with a solid 4.48 40 time and the best vertical and broad jump scores of all WR. He has strong hands and a great catch radius pulling in incredibly hard catches regularly. He does struggle with getting separation from DB’s at times, especially in press coverage, but he doesn’t need a ton of space to make a catch either. He has the potential to be an extremely productive inside slot receiver in the NFL and with the right coach to develop him a bit more he could definitely exceed this ranking, which is already higher than most.
- Jalen Reagor – TCU – Here is another guy who is not a complete player, but has a lot of upside if he can be developed and used in the right system. He has speed, much more speed than even his 4.47 40 time at the combine shows. He has a knack for getting off the line fast and blowing by defenders, something that would’ve done a lot more for his stats if his quarterback were up to the task. He has to develop his route running and focus/awareness, but the raw skills are there and if you want to swing big this wouldn’t be a bad guy to swing with.
- Chase Claypool – Notre Dame – There is no one who has climbed higher up my list during my draft preparation time than Claypool. A few years ago I think NFL scouts would’ve been drooling over him, but the prototypical WR has changed. That said, I think it’s changed too much and you shouldn’t sleep on the 6’4” 229 lbs. receiver who can run a 4.42 40. There are questions about his senior season breakout, but it was really the first time he’d had average or better quarterback play. Claypool’s straight line doesn’t translate as well to elusiveness in the open field, which does impact his run after catch ability and somewhat limit the upside. That said, his potential to create a mismatch in the slot is really enticing.
- Brandon Aiyuk – Arizona State – This is one of the more polarizing guys at the position with analysts having him pretty all over the place in rankings. The thing to love is his explosive athleticism leading to his ability to make something great happen with the ball in his hands and potential to be a big time deep threat to stretch the field. The concerns are his route running isn’t developed, he can be bumped off the line too easily and it’s not clear how much he can do in the middle of the field. I respect the upside, but the floor is that he only up being a premier returner and never develops the receiver skills to thrive at that position in the NFL, which is obviously not a great place for fantasy. I could look foolish for having him this low in a year or two, but it’s hard to separate a lot of these guys.
- Michael Pittman Jr – USC – Pittman doesn’t have the full array of skills like some of the guys higher up on this list, but he knows what he’s good at and does it well. He is a big receiver at 6’4” and 223 lbs. and he used that size well to bully cornerbacks and clear enough space to use his massive catch radius. Pittman isn’t a burner, but he ran surprisingly well for his size at the combine and is fast enough to pair with his size to be a formidable possession receiver, with the upside of becoming a red zone threat and gaining real fantasy value.
- K.J. Hamler – Penn State – I hate having Hamler this low, but the wide receiver class is deep. I love watching him play, but despite that I still have concerns about how he will translate to the NFL. He needs to add a little more bulk to avoid being bullied by defensive backs who can knock him off his routes. While he is as elusive as they come in the open field, I don’t know that he has as much straight line speed to run away from defenders as he gets credit for. Hamler is a lot like Aiyuk where I can see a world where he ends up being a really productive slot guy, but I can also see him being nothing more than a dynamic punt returner.
- Devin Duvernay – Texas – Duvernay is another guy who you will get a lot of mixed opinions on. I can see both sides of the argument, but I have a hard time having him any higher than this. He blew up in his senior season with 106 catches for 1,386 yards and completely outshining his teammate Colin Johnson, who most thought would be the guy on this list before the season. Duvernay impressed many at the combine with his speed scores, but I’m concerned about how poorly that speed translated to his agility scores (which I tend to put more stock in for WR, especially ones with his skillset). I could be proven wrong, but I just don’t think the ceiling is as high as the others above him on this list.
- Bryan Edwards – South Carolina – This is a guy I can see finding a role on an NFL team and sticking around for several years because he knows what he’s good at and stays in his lane. The problem is his upside is limited in my opinion and I have a hard time seeing him ever developing into a top end fantasy wideout. Edwards has good size and strength and uses them well to create space and box defensive backs out in the middle of the field, as well as gain positioning on the sidelines. He isn’t likely going to make many big plays, but he can do enough with the skills he has to stick as a team’s WR2 or WR3 with moderate fantasy upside.
Make sure to check out all of our 2020 Fantasy Baseball preseason rankings: